Commentary note by Ms. Alissar Chaker, UNDP Resident Representative, for the project 'Inclusive Renewable Energy Access in Rural Areas'

March 20, 2022

Solar in Ratanakiri Province ©ManuthButh/UNDPCambodia/2022

The Embassy of Japan and UNDP signed a new project for Inclusive Renewable Energy Access in Rural Areas, our commitment to leaving no one behind. The electrification of the remaining off-grid villages is beyond access to electricity: it means reducing poverty, expanding opportunities, and improving health, productivity, and better quality of life for remote and isolated villages. Of the 350 off-grid villages, about 180 off-grid villages are difficult to reach by road. Many of those villages are very poor and home to some marginalised groups such as indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities.

Cambodia has emerged as one of the countries with highest electrification rate over the last decade.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Royal Government’s stand on adopting a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants and encouraging investment in clean energy. The rapid deployment of utility scale solar projects - from 10 MW in 2017 to 372 MW by the end of 2021 - is a proof that Cambodia is capable to achieve its Long-Term Strategy for Carbon Neutrality, provided the pace is maintained towards renewable energy deployment.

In July 2021, UNDP made a bold commitment to support access to clean energy for 500 million people globally by 2025. UNDP considers access to energy as enabler for progress and poverty reduction as modern societies depend heavily on reliable and affordable energy services to function smoothly and develop equitably. Indeed, the lack of access to energy is a major driver for inequality and vulnerability since energy systems support all sectors from healthcare and education to agriculture, infrastructure, industry, and communication, among others. Clean energy not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change, but also air pollution in general, including indoor air pollution affecting mostly women’s health.

In Cambodia, UNDP and the Ministry of Mines and Energy implemented mini-grids providing affordable, reliable, and clean energy access to indigenous communities of Ratanakiri Province and island villagers living on Tonle Sap Lake, Kampong Chhnang Province. More mini-grids are under deployment showcasing business models for private sector involvement, and deployment of technological solutions to reduce operation and maintenance cost.

My sincere thanks go to the Embassy of Japan for investing in leaving no one behind. UNDP’s work and the Japanese cooperation agenda converge in many areas, namely, in addressing development challenges that are compounded by COVID-19 pandemic, such as human security; health and Universal Health Coverage (UHC); rule of law; conflict prevention and peacebuilding; and risk-informed development.

I call for more donors and development partners to join this movement for achieving universal electrification through affordable and reliable energy access. I believe, together, we could do more to accelerate the achievement of the Cambodia’s Sustainable Development Goal 7, C-SDG7, as access to clean energy, is a key enabler for the remaining SDGs and thus for sustainable, green, equitable and resilient development in the Kingdom.